The Fail Zone

Here’s an email moment where I feel like an asshole. This is something I want to improve. Here’s here’s a really specific example (but I’m thinking broader, generally).

I get an email today from a real, regular, normal person. I don’t know them whatsoever. They aren’t overtly rude, but they want something from me. They want technical help on a website thing. They offer few details, but offer to pay for the help.

The problem is… I don’t do this kind of work. I don’t want to. I have a busy life working on all sorts of different things and nowhere do I suggest that I’m hirable for freelance web work. If I did, I don’t think I’d be the kinda freelancer that’s willing to just get pulled into random situations. One step further, if I was, my quote on work like that would be a number that I could just tell they didn’t want to see.

And because I don’t know this person, I’m also not comfortable suggesting them to anybody I know that does do freelance work.

So I have nothing really to offer. And you know what I did? I just deleted the email. I’m not overcome with guilt about it, but it is a bit of an asshole move.

Really? Not even a “sorry, I don’t do that kind of work” response? I’m afraid not, readers, just gonzo. I sort of dread the potential followup “C’monnnnn I reallllly need help” which will double how bad I feel and pull me deeper into something I can’t help on.

For lack of a better term, this email is in the fail zone for me. I don’t have a system, so the email gets handled in a way I’m not proud of. It’s not just freelance requests, it’s anything where I just don’t know what to do, it can’t just sit in my inbox, so I shoo it away rather than being helpful and building that long term karma that email can be great at.

What kind of response should I have given? My stance on what I can offer isn’t going to change, but I like honestly and could/should have more helpful. I should write something generic that explains how I don’t do freelance and how I don’t do referrals for strangers. I bet I could write something in there there has generically helpful advice. Then save that in a place that’s easy to re-use. That way, I’m being honest, as helpful as I can, and I’m not just punting on email entirely.

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